That honour belongs to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft’s first overall pick, Nail Yakupov.
But with Yak taking off for greener pastures in Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL at the start of this season, and now suiting up for the Edmonton Oilers, Goldobin has done his best to fill the void.
I spoke with his agent, Igor Larionov, during a recent match with the Windsor Spitfires and here’s what he had to say about his young client:
Rob Benneian: When Nikolay is playing his best, what is he doing?
Igor Larionov: (Smiles) Scoring goals. (Laughs). Scoring goals, creates some chances, makes the players around him better players.
RB: What’s the biggest strength of his game? His shot?
IL: He’s got accuracy shooting, that’s for sure, and second of all he’s so creative, so nifty. So unpredictable. That’s the key piece of his game.
RB: What can a guy like you teach Nikolay as he’s transitioning to North American hockey?
IL: He has to be more consistent, play hard every night. Play hard every shift. Bring your talent every time you step on the ice.
RB: Is there anyone you’ve played with or seen play he compares to?
IL: It’s hard to say. He’s not where I want to see him yet. He’s had a good season but I can see a lot of things that need to be improved. That’s what he’s going to spend the summer (doing).
RB: So what does he need to improve on, other than consistency?
IL: To be consistent, you have to be mentally and physically strong. That’s the key for any player. You’ve got skill, you’ve got the tools, you gotta put everything in the toolbox to be a complete player.
RB: He’s not the biggest guy (eliteprospects has him at 5’11″, 146 (!) ) by any means, can he get much bigger or stronger?
IL: He’s growing. He’s around six feet now. You can see he’s kind of smaller side, but his complexity, he needs some muscle all over his body. He just turned 17. He’s still got a couple years to get better, to get bigger.
RB: The transition to North American hockey seems to be going well, he’s clipping along at almost a point per game (40 in 45), did you expect him to be better?
IL: It’s very hard mentally for Russian boys coming over a few thousand miles away from home, play different hockey, away from family. I think he’s played great hockey this year, beyond my expectations, but when you’ve got the skill and the mind, that tells you you’ve got so much potential and I expect him to be so much better.
I also asked Igor what it is about Sarnia that draws his clients there (Nail, Galchenyuk, Goldobin, etc.). He said their blend of a North American/European style of play, that the coaching staff allows the players to play their own games and use mistakes as learning opportunities, plus the proximity to Detroit.